Coligny Park now set for 2020

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THOSE LOOKING FORWARD TO A NEW AND IMPROVED COLIGNY BEACH AREA ARE GOING TO HAVE TO WAIT

Those looking forward to a new and improved Coligny Beach area are going to have to wait until the beginning of the next decade, at least.

The island’s expenisve recovery from Hurricane Matthew combined with a complicated bidding process for the multi-tiered project will delay the completion of the beach area redevelopment until 2020 at the earliest, town officials said.

“There are a lot of factors in play, but first and foremost, the recovery efforts have limited the town’s funding of short-term projects,” said Town of Hilton Head Island urban designer Chris Darnell. “We know how much people want this project, but we are looking to create the best possible result here, and that is going to take more time.”

>>> Coligny Park will include a playground, the Sandbox children’s museum, a discovery trail and a grassy area to be used for outdoor events. Rendering Courtesy of Wood + Partners Inc. and The Town of Hilton Head Island

In the heart of the Coligny district, about 11 acres are scheduled to be redeveloped bween the town’s existing beach parking lot and Circle Center on Pope Avenue. The park will include a Lowcountry-themed playground, discovery trail, The Sandbox: An Interactive Children’s Museum, and a large green area where outdoor events will be held, said Kyle Theodore, principal at Wood + Partners Inc. The Hilton Head Island-based firm created the conceptual plan for the project. The centerpiece of the playground will be a play structure replica of Capt. William Hilton’s ship, “The Adventure.” Kids will be able to wade and splash in a water feature modelled on a tidal pool.

Work was initially set to begin in October 2016, but the start date has been pushed back, in part due to the effects of Hurricane Matthew. Another hurdle in beginning the project may have been in figuring out exactly how to start.

In addition to the park and museum, the plan calls for roadwork along Pope Avenue, Lagoon Road, Nassau Street and South Forest Beach Drive. The scope of the plan proved to be too daunting for local firms.

“We put the project out to bid as one big project and the feedback we got was that it was just too massive of a job for any one contractor,” Darnell said. “So we have gone back to the drawing board and broken up the various tasks.”

The bidding will now be done in three parts — the roadwork, the park and playground, and the building of the new museum. In 2016, the town estimated the cost of the park and children’s museum at about $12 million. In 2015, the roadwork was estimated to cost about $3.3 million. Darnell said these estimates are subject to change.

So now that a contractor-friendly bidding process has been figured out, why hasn’t work begun? In part because town staff needs to draw up new bidding documents. Also, many of the town’s planners and designers are still trying to get the island back to normal in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

“We’re still working on stormwater drainage issues related to Matthew, and it’s been all-consuming for many of us,” Darnell said.

And just when the island was beginning to feel normal again, town officials were forced to prepare for another major hit from Hurricane Irma.

“We are all thankful that that was [not as bad as it could have been] and are all breathing a sigh of relief, but the planning ahead of a hurricane like that, there is a lot of time put in there,” Darnell said.

Once the town is ready to put the project out for bid once more, it will be up to Hilton Head Town Council to settle on a timetable for the project. Council members have objected to disrupting multiple tourist seasons. Roadwork will cause the most disturbance.

Darnell said that the town wants to deliver what most people have said they want.

“We want to get this project right. We’ve talked to residents and the overwhelming response is they don’t want a watered-down version of what they expected,” he said. “But we’re trying to be as transparent as possible in letting folks know why this is delayed.”

The current plan calls for bidding to begin in mid to late 2018. Construction would begin in 2019 and would likely take 14 months to complete, leading to the currently estimated fall 2020 completion date.

“The town has recognized that high-quality public spaces contribute to improved quality of life for our community and encourage private sector redevelopment,” Wood + Partners’ Theodore said.

Residents hope it’s worth the wait.